EFL Methodology

Approach Method and Technique

What is method? about four decades ago Edward Anthony (1963) gave us a definition that has admirably withstood the test of time. His concept of method was the second of three hierarchical elements, namely approach, method and technique. An approach, according to Anthony, was a set of assumptions dealing with the nature of language, learning and teaching. Method was described as an overall plan for systematic presentation of language based upon a selected approach. Techniques were the specific activities manifested in the classroom that were consistent with a method and therefore were in harmony with an approach as well.

Following is a set of definitions that reflect the current usage:

Methodology: Pedagogical practices in general (including theoretical underpinnings and related research). Whatever considerations are involved in “how to teach” are methodological.

Approach: Theoretical well-informed positions and beliefs about the nature of language, the nature of language learning, and the applicability of both to pedagogical settings.

Method: A generalized set of classroom specifications for accomplishing linguistic objectives. Methods tend to be concerned primarily with teacher and student rules and behaviors and secondarily with such features as linguistic ad subject-matter objectives, sequencing, and materials. They are almost always thought of as being broadly applicable to a variety of audiences in a variety of contexts.

Curriculum/syllabus: Designs for carrying out a particular language program. Features include a primary concern with the specification of linguistic and subject-matter objectives, sequencing, and materials to meet the needs of a designated group of learners in a defined context. (The term “syllabus” is usually used more customarily in the UK to refer to what is called a “curriculum” in the US.

Technique: Any of a wide variety of exercises, activities or tasks used in the language classroom for realizing lesson objectives.

Learners of English who have the opportunity to live in an English-speaking environment while studying have a huge advantage. They are surrounded by the language continuously and are able to put acquired language into practice in everyday, realistic situations. However, the majority of English learners live in their native countries, where English is not the first language and, as a result, do not have these benefits. Many of these students may have the opportunity to use English at work, with their friends or in some other practical way where they are able to use their English on a fairly regular basis. Many other learners of English are not so fortunate, and their only contact with the language may be daily, twice weekly or weekly English classes at school or at a private language institute. As a result, these students do not get the same exposure to the language and opportunity to put it into practice.

As children, we all learnt our native language (commonly referred to as L1 in the field of TEFL) without the aid of language teachers and course books. We simply absorbed the language around us, processed it and through trial and error formulated internal ideas and rules to allow us to be able to use the language fluently and accurately. This natural language acquisition is impossible to replicate in the classroom (when learning a second or foreign language, often referred to as L2), but many of the most popular methodologies in EFL teaching today do try to imitate it as far as is practical.